“…By His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:2–3

Years ago, after my father passed away, I had the privilege of seeing one of my dad’s lifelong friends. I will never forget shaking his hand when we met. He said, “When I shake your hand I feel as if I am shaking your father’s hand.” Knowing that great friends are hard to come by, his words held a great deal of meaning for me.

Several things would have led him to say those valued words. One, the fact that I resembled my father in look and voice, perhaps in his younger days. Two, he missed my dad and the friendship they had always had together. Third, there is just something about the warmth and strength of a handshake that tells two men about their mettle. Finally, perhaps a reflective moment in which he remembered some time or event shared with my dad. For him, I was an “image” of my father.

But, I am not my father, nor does my father live on in me. I am sure Dad is glad he is alive, well, and leading his own life in heaven rather than depending on those still on this earth to keep his memory alive. No, we do not live on in our children. Is there a more spooky thought than what that would mean in reality? Or is there a more helpless position to be in than to be “alive” in someone else with no volition, voice, or thoughts of your own? Our idea of being in the image of our parents is far afield of what the Bible describes when it declares that Jesus is the express image of His Father.

In the case of Jesus Christ, He is the truest image of the Father since He shares the same essence. He is God, and for this reason we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity of God, or Tri-unity of God, as some call the doctrine.

Our being created in the image of God is not the same as Christ being the image of the Father. Back in Genesis 2:26ff the seed of the doctrine of the Trinity is introduced as well as the plan of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

We all know that God is spirit (John 4:24) while we are corporeal. Our image-bearing cannot be that our body resembles God’s “body” for He is spirit! The clue to what bearing the image of God means is found in the context. First, it took a special creative work of God. No animal was created as God created man in forming him out of the dust of the earth. Every human life is sacred as no other life form on earth can be. Second, man’s role as having dominion over the earth fulfills the picture of bearing the image of God since He has dominion over all. Third, man bears the image of God in the sense that God breathed life into him. I believe that opens the door to the fact that man is not just a physical being, but also spirit. We can share in God’s communicable attributes, such as holiness and righteousness, be born again, and receive the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We can fellowship with and worship our heavenly Father.

Because of the fact that man is the special creation of God, bearing His image, Jesus Christ could be born in flesh (incarnated), live a perfect and sinless life, being both God and man, and die on the cross as our substitute. Our sin transferred to Him while His righteousness can be transferred to our account. Jesus is both fully man and He is fully God.

Jesus arrived among men as an image-bearer through His incarnation (Philippians 2:8), but in long-standing actuality He is also the express image of God in His essence (Philippians 2:6—“form” is form fitted essence of God, a continuous state or condition). Jesus has the essential, unchanging character of God, as the MacArthur Study Bible states. Jesus could rightfully claim that He is God, just as He did in John 8:58f.

2 Corinthians 4:4 teaches that Satan blinds the unsaved unbelievers “lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” How longsuffering is Jesus that He allows people to misuse His good name in their blindness, knowing there are some of them whom He will bring to Himself!

Colossians 1:15 teaches that Jesus is the image (iekon, the stamp) of the invisible God. What we see in Him is the perfect impression made by the essence of God that He is. Our text in Hebrews bears out the same idea. We bear God’s image. It is our privilege to resemble our heavenly Father because of the God-sized task Jesus has done in us in redeeming and regenerating us! Be like Jesus! Trust and obey.